Monday, November 22, 2010

Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding with Brown Sugar Streusel and Caramel Brandy Sauce

Let the title of this post sink in, then pick up your jaw so you can get on with your day.

Everything about this recipe is perfect. It is a combination of several delicious ingredients. And applying that saying about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, if you put a bunch of good ingredients together, you are going to get one GREAT thing out of it.

It all started when my friend told me she had a chocolate babka loaf and thought it could be turned into a baked good. She suggested bread pudding. I knew she was onto something. Chocolate babka is great on its own; baked into something, it could be head-turning. I agreed to take her up on the challenge to create a chocolate babka bread pudding, so the only question was, what recipe. I browsed various recipe websites for inspiration and ultimately landed on Paula Deen's "Best Bread Pudding" recipe from the Food Network. I read several stellar reviews by others who tried the recipe, including several comments that the recipe was so sweet it could actually use cutting back on the sugar. So I cut the white sugar quantity of the bread pudding mixture in half. Perfection.

The Brown Sugar Streusel Topping is an amazing addition to an already amazing bread pudding because the pecans become candied and give every bite a bit of crunch and grainy texture on your tongue. The boozy sauce is, well, boozy, and I loved it. Not everyone is into alcoholic-tasting desserts, so I recommend leaving the sauce in a bowl on the table and letting people serve themselves.

Not only did my friend and her husband love this bread pudding (which was such a relief since they donated their babka to this experiment!), but I also shared a piece with another friend who has extremely discerning taste, comes from a dessert loving, food loving background, and is generally very picky and reserved when it comes to expressing positive superlatives about what he eats. But after finishing his serving of the bread pudding, he did not hold back on the superlatives. He said this bread pudding was one of the best desserts he had ever had in his life. Maybe you don't know this guy and can't grasp the meaning of his words (I guess you'll have to bake this and find out for yourself!), but to me, those were golden words. Coming from him, they formed the kind of compliment any baker would dream of hearing. Dessert perfection: Achieved!

Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding with Brown Sugar Streusel Topping and Caramel Brandy Sauce
Adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen on

Bread Pudding
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large beaten eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 9x5-inch loaf chocolate babka, cubed, and allow to get stale in an uncovered bowl overnight

Streusel Topping
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans

Caramel Brandy Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup brandy (warning: this is a LOT of brandy and creates a very boozy, strong alcoholic flavor; feel free to use less or omit completely)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch pan.

For the bread pudding: In a medium bowl, mix together granulated sugar, eggs, and milk. Add vanilla. Place the cubed babka in a large bowl and pour the milk mixture over the babka so that all cubes are wet. Stir gently to coat all pieces. Let sit for 10 minutes.

For the Streusel Topping: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, softened butter, and pecans. Then with a fork or your fingers, crumble the ingredients together.

To bake: Pour the milky babka mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the babka and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

For the Sauce: In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla over medium heat. Continue stirring until the sugar is melted. Add the brandy, if using, and stir until slightly thickened. Drizzle over the bread pudding. Can be served warm or cold.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Combine the sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla...

Pour the mixture over the cubed babka and let stand about 10 minutes...

Pour the milky babka mixture into the prepared baking dish...

To make the streusel topping, combine the butter, brown sugar, and pecans...

Crumble the ingredients together...
Sprinkle the streusel topping over the babka pieces in the baking dish...

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes...

To make the caramel brandy sauce, stir together the sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla...
Add the brandy and continue stirring until heated through and slightly thickened...
Drizzle over individual servings of the bread pudding and enjoy!


Mom said...

Wow! That looks incredible! Your friend was so brave to wait and donate her chocolate babka to your experiment rather than to eat it up right away. Your pictures and comments by friends look like she was well rewarded!I would love to try it but don't know if I could ever save my babka for the bread pudding!

kristina said...

Ooh Chocolate Babka is the best. So is bread pudding! This sounds insane. Awesomely, wonderfully insane!

Elisabeth said...

Hi Marni-I found your blog through the Coffe Cakes book by Lou Seibert Pappas, which I'm offering as a giveaway. I googled about the auther, and your blog came up with one of her cake recipes, a year ago, also, in November.
I am linking on my blog your blog's name which will take viewers to your blog on your recipe.
I'm now, following your blog. Please come and visit my blog too.
I love your recent Babka Bread Pudding recipe, and step-by-step photos of it. Looks absolutely yummy...great photos, as well!
Thanks for sharing!

Melanie Flinn said...

Found your site via a TechMunch sheet I had from Austin (in March)! This looks so good. I will have to try it!

Kimberly said...

I had to read the title twice in order to let it sink in...and it sounds amazing!!! It definitely has a few of my most favorite words in it. Mmmmm!

Rebecca said...

Brilliant, Marni! just made it and consumed while perfectly warm with locally made vanilla ice cream, it is truly the BEST bread pudding I've ever made, next time I may make the sauce, but didn't have time so how could you go wrong with vanilla ice cream melting over warm chocolate?! My babka was from whole foods easy to find, will try with cinnamon babka too. Bravo!

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